How to raise mental health awareness in the workplace
Rise of mental health awareness in the workplace
Over the last five to ten years mental health has attained much more focus in the workplace. This is partly due to companies wanting to reduce the business cost while employees are off sick because of their mental health.
What we need to understand about mental health in the workplace isn’t so much about each individual mental health issue, but how the workplace can impact on a person’s mental health in the first place.
Work is good for our mental health, it provides us with a purpose, gives us direction and helps us interact with others. But a negative work environment can lead to mental health problems.
According to the World Health Organisation:
“Depression and anxiety can have a significant economic impact, the estimated cost to the global economy is US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity”.
What constitutes a negative working environment?
There are many things that can cause this environment, the most common though are:
- Poor communication
- Inflexible work culture
- Poor management practices
- Unclear tasks or business objectives
So how do we support people and their mental health and wellbeing?
We need to create:
- An open-door culture
- Raise awareness and educate our people
- Share our own personal stories
- Use the right technology
This isn’t something that can be achieved just with one campaign. No, this is something that needs to be continuous and communicated as part of your company culture. This is something that needs to be maintained and nurtured.
1. Open-door culture
First off, let’s explain what ‘open-door’ means.
This is a communication method which promotes managers, line managers, and senior leadership to leave their office door open to encourage openness and transparency with the people in your business.
Employees are encouraged to stop by whenever they need to ask questions, discuss certain matters, and address issues they may be feeling. This helps encourage an open, trusting, and collaborative company culture. Where the employees have as much of a voice as the senior management.
If people feel they are able to discuss their mental health or bring up ways that can reduce the risks to people’s health and wellbeing, it strengthens trust in management and belief that businesses will play an active role in supporting mental health.
2. Awareness and education
The only way people can effectively understand mental health is by learning about it.
Help them with this by executing stand-out communication campaigns. Remember this is not a sprint but a marathon.
This shouldn’t be covered just by one campaign, look at creating a number throughout the year. Link it to specific times of the year, such as Mental Health Awareness Week in May and World Mental Health Day in October.
Develop campaigns that encourage education, this could be around e-learning, virtual courses and guides. Work with your HR teams to create collaborative campaigns around mental health, that look at a persons wellbeing, what their responsibilities are, how they can support others, who they can turn to and how they can help build an open, trusting, and transparent culture.
3. Sharing your stories
Your communication won’t mean anything if they don’t establish relatable, emotional connections with your people.
A way you can do this is through storytelling. Now, this word is used a lot when talking about communication. But in this case, it is really relevant.
People will interact and participate more with you when they read, hear, and watch personal stories from their own peers.
Tania Diggory, founder and director of Calmer, a training organisation specialising in mental wellbeing stated:
“Employers can empower a conversation around mental health at work by sharing personal stories of a struggle they’ve been through in the past and recovered from.
It’s important to ensure that you feel you’re sharing from a place of empowerment and healing, in order to encourage others to be open – but at the same time protecting yourself by honestly reflecting on whether your story feels too raw to talk about at that stage”.
4. With the right technology
During this global pandemic, we have relied heavily on our technology to communicate with each other, while face to face activities have been postponed or moved virtually.
This has meant that many businesses have had to quickly update their technology to allow people to communicate while working remotely.
Loneliness and other mental health problems have been highlighted as one of the biggest issues during the Covid-19 pandemic. With many people cut off from their work colleagues, friends and family, technology will continue to play a big part in our lives for the foreseeable future.
So, what technology is the right technology?
It depends on what you’re doing.
- Collaboration, look at tools like Office 365, Slack, Trello and Asana
- Video conferencing, look at tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Bluejeans
- For the best home office equipment read this Techradar article
Another type of technology to look at is wearable technology.
PwC produced an insight report looking at how wearable technology can help support people’s mental health.
The report focuses on whether employees are ready to use wearable technology at work to help support their mental health.
Some of the key facts:
- 65% of people think that technology has a real role to play in their health and wellbeing
- However, 45% of people believe their employer does play an active role
Recognising a mental health problem
With effective education, good communication and now an open and trusting company culture, your people are in a position to support, listen and raise their hand for help.
But what are the signs of an emerging mental health problem? What should you be looking out for?
If a colleague, friend, or family member is:
- More tired than usual
- Sleeping less
- Drinking more
- Making uncharacteristic mistakes
- Finding it hard to motivate themselves
- Short-tempered and having emotional outbursts
- Procrastinating more
- Absent from work
- Not looking after their appearance like they normally would
These are some of the key early warning signs that someone might be struggling with their mental health.
While you can make your workplace a safe haven for people dealing with mental health problems, it’s important to remember that they may fear discrimination and feel ashamed due to past experience, which may stop them from seeking help.
If this is the case, talk to them, keep your door open for them to speak to you, share your own story, create a safe zone for them to talk about their feelings.
This will help them take the first steps towards getting help.
Effective communication can create a positive work environment, reduce risks of mental health issues, raise awareness of how to help those in need and improve positivity among your colleagues.
We are constantly learning about mental health and we shouldn’t be complacent in thinking we have all the information.
Some good places to find out more about mental health are: